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Exclusive premiere: A woman battles her creepy house in buzzy horror short 'Stucco'

By Josh Weiss
Janina Gavankar Stucco

Get ready to take out a mortgage with terrifying interest rates as SYFY WIRE unleashes the world premiere of Stucco, a claustrophobic horror flick about an agoraphobic woman (played by The Way Back's Janina Gavankar) whose new house may not be all that it seems.

"We were going through some real stuff and this movie is pretty autobiographical for both of us," Russo Schelling, who wrote and directed the project with Gavankar, tells us. He also described the movie as an allegory for "depression and anxiety."

SYFY WIRE is exclusively presenting the world premiere of the short — which was shot on a shoestring budget at Gavankar's actual house over a period of less than four days — below. In her own words, it's "indie as f***."

Heads up that Stucco does feature some visceral imagery that may not be suitable for younger audiences.

"It’s sort of like catharsis in [this], 'I have to get this out of my body’ kind of way,'" explains Gavankar. "And then as Russo and I have become creative partners, that’s really become our process. We won’t take a project on unless we are examining something that is troubling and using the story that we’re telling to do that ... We’re much more interested in magical realism and analogy to really look at things we’re not proud of."

"There’s a version of this movie that could be just a person sitting in a house and being sad," adds Schelling. "Either we can imitate real life, or we can do something that takes it one step further and monster-izes mental illness or anxiety and depression. That’s what takes it to the next level. I don’t think anybody wants to see just a sad person in a house by themselves."

And here's the tasty teaser poster. FYI, that's Schelling's tongue sticking through the wall.

Stucco poster

After watching the short, you're probably creeped out by the sound design, right? The sonic work overseen by supervising sound editor Csaba Wagner (Pacific Rim, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare) ended up being nominated for a Golden Reel Award by the Motion Picture Sound Editors. While Stucco did not win, it was still able to go toe-to-toe with heavy hitters like The Good Place, Star Trek: Short Treks, and Jurassic World: Battle at Big Rock.

"Sound is the most important thing in a horror film," continues Schelling. "Maybe the most important thing in film. You can forgive a bad image, [but] you cannot forgive bad sound. You wreck people’s immersion very, very easily."

"This film would not be possible without ZEISS, RED, and EFILM," finishes Gavankar, referring to the companies that made the visual aspects of the movie possible. "They supported this piece like it was a piece of art, which is such a rarity. There’s no way we could have done this without them. They treated us like we were well-striped filmmakers."

The short is very much a one-woman show, but if you're paying close attention, you can pick out short cameos from Debra Messing (Will & Grace), Michael Ealy (Stumptown), Colton Haynes (Arrow), Rutina Wesley (True Blood), Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy), Aisha Tyler (Archer), Amy Forsyth (Hell Fest), Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil), Roby Attal (Messiah), Rafael Casal (Blindspotting), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder on the Orient Express).

Stucco premieres on Gunpowder & Sky’s ALTER this Wednesday, March 11. Be sure to check back with SYFY WIRE tomorrow for a deep dive into the short with Gavankar and Schelling!